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County Assembly set to reopen after a Covid-19 scare

The puzzle over the Covid-19 cases reported in the Taita-Taveta County Assembly deepened on Thursday after the Speaker reported the assembly would reopen next week.

The County Assembly was abruptly closed following reports that a staff tested positive for covid-19 and when mandatory tests for staff were ordered, two more workers tested positive bringing the total infections in the Assembly to three.

Because it could not be immediately established where the first patient had contacted the virus from, the County Assembly Board ordered the closure to avoid the risk of further spreading. MCAs and staff were asked to self-quarantine for 14-days.

However, the Speaker, Meshack Maghanga said Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) tests done on 22nd August brought back negative results for all MCAs. This, he added, was proof that there was no need for alarm and normal operations of the assembly would resume.

“All tests done show that no member is infected. As we resume operations, we are taking all precautions to ensure the facilities are fumigated and we are keeping safe,” he said on Thursday.

Strangely, the Speaker rubbished the reports that the Assembly had closed due to the Covid-19 infections. He insisted that MCAs had gone for a two-week recess as per the calendar of house business.

“We did not close down the Assembly because of Corona. We went for a recess and we will resume next week,” he said.

The Speaker also disowned an earlier press release by the Clerk over the issue of Corona cases in the Assembly alleging it was hastily done and was not subjected to the approval by the relevant offices before it was released.

“The communication was not properly done and thus the confusion,” he said.

More baffling, the Speaker declined to explicitly confirm if there were verified cases of staff who tested positive for Covid-19. “I have heard they are staff who are positive,” he said.

Reports however refute the Speaker’s claims. Officials privy to the events preceding the closure of the Assembly hinted that the speaker himself chaired a crisis board meeting over the Coronavirus presence in the assembly. It was decided that the precincts be closed for fumigation.

An MCA who requested anonymity said the assembly was upset because the members never wanted the matter to be made public.

Speaking to KNA, the MCA said the public disclosure of corona in the assembly and the subsequent closure had cast the Assembly in bad light and it was being interpreted that all MCAs were infected.

“People think we are positive because of the press reports. Such perceptions could not be there if this matter was handled quietly,” said the legislator.

Earlier on, there was drama after the security agencies stopped a scheduled press briefing at a hotel in Mwatate over fears that the MCAs were a health risk as they were supposed to be on self-quarantine.

Mwatate Deputy County Commissioner Damaris Kimondo said the meeting was illegal because all MCAs were supposed to self-isolate for some time to keep the public safe.

“The meeting is unlawful because the Assembly has cases of Covid-19. They should stay away from the public until they have finished their isolation period,” she said.

By Wagema Mwangi

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